Monday, February 19, 2007

My Subscription: On Recurrent Issues...

The Black Woman, Toni Cade Bambara (pictured above), 1970
We Walk the Way of the New World, Don L. Lee (Haki Madhubuti), 1970
Conditions: Five The Black Women’s Issue Barbara Smith and Lorraine Bethel, 1979
This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color, Gloria Anzaldua and Cherrie Moraga, 1981.
“Your Silence Will Not Protect You: A Tribute to Audre Lorde” Barbara Christian, 1993
Black (W)holes and the Geometry of Black Female Sexuality, Evelyn Hammonds, 1994
Reproductions of Reproduction, Judith Roof, 1996
"Making History: An Interview with Barbara Smith by Terrence Heath", 1998
“Here’s the Movement, Let’s Start Building: An Interview with Barbara Smith” Color Lines, 2000
"Building Black Women’s Studies", Barbara Smith, 2000
"Charting a Personal Journey: A Road to Black Women's Studies", Nellie McKay, 2000
"Other Mothers of Women's Studies", Beverly Guy-Sheftall, 2000
No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive, Lee Edelman, 2004
Big Momma's House 2, Don Whitesell (sic!), 2006

My grandfather taught me the difference between the words "continious" and "continual". My grandfather had a mind for memorizing poems, dictionary entries and duppy stories. For "continuous" he recited "without cessation", but continual slips into vernacular in my memory of how he must have spoken it, again and again and again and again. Periodical, like breathing, like waves, like the naturalized return of the same issues. But you see...this is the place where subscription becomes conscriptions. We are drafted into the reproduction of the status quo through narrative, through faith, through the machines performance of itself as moon, but mostly through our own belief. Another one of Pop-pop's quotables came with the unforgettable sensory aid of Rendezvous Bay ("God's Swimming Pool" they say...and it's grandparents did swim there more than anywhere else in their action desegregation of the Perth Amboy pool notwithstading). Pop-pop explained the changing shape and depth of the beach in the way that I needed during the last years of his life. "Each day is the world made new." New. Each day. The contradiction is in the process. What is so new about something that happens each day? Is it made new in the same way? Basically my question remains, does the WAY of making change or is it only the products that change, or is it only what we think the products (our very own lives) mean that changes. Are we the ones that make it new?
I bring these questions to thoughts of publication this week. After Don L. Lee published We Walk the Way of the New World, definining New World as a new black subjectivity produced by African liberation movements and Afro-American consciousness and black historians and singers and psychiatrists and poets and (though he doesn't say this with more than his life's work) the apparatus of black publishing for an ostensibly black audience. Is the creation of a new world the act of making an audience? The act of making something audible (Barbara Smith says that making the invisible visible is a plitical act)? Is making a new world the making of a sound? (I used to imagine, while blowing bubbles that the bubble itself might be a whole planet with its whole system of wet continents complete in the second before popping. I used to imagine that people lived there. For a while I became obsessed with actually eating the bubbles as they popped. I must have wanted to be a place to live.) For Don L. Lee in 1970 (and maybe even as Haki Madhubuti now...but I doubt in the same way), of course, black women are indeed a place to live. In fact the three sections of his book are (by this logic) geographic. He begins with a section of Blackwoman Poems which opens with an epigraph of Negritude poet Leopold Senghor's poem to Africa as black woman as mother lover something or other, moves on to a section entitled Africa and then to a section entitled New World. We (he makes clear in the introduction) are black men with cameras and cars and a hip way of walking. Black modernity here includes community accountability defined as a something which is directly juxtaposed with supposedly white-taught homosexuality. This issue recurs in Toni Cade Bambara's The Black Woman, which while responding to the objectification of black women in nationalist ideologies (through Don's black nationalist compadres and Moynihanian sociology, retains the black man as the most immediate and directly addressed audience of the text and (with the exception of an interesting suggestion by Bambara herself that we (men and women) should not be afraid of becoming androgynous because gender role are something that can only be created IN the revolutionary process..not assumed and enforcedfrom the outset) is soldily heterosexist and sometimes outright homophobic in its insistence that the women's empowerment it is demanding is the solution to (not the advancing of) Amazonianism and Faggotry (to refer to terms).

*Aside here. Under strange circumstances I saw one of the many black male actor as mammy-esque elder black obese woman films on television last weekend. The ideology was clear. This black man, becomes a black woman (easily, but hilariously) in order to nurture the white family and protect the state (us quo), revealing that this (the buildling up of the white middle class nuclear family--which Pat Parker by the way wants explicitly to destroy---IS the protection of the state. So a black FBI agent dressed as a fat black mammy who actually is willing to take a bullet while his pregnant wife and growing son wait a home for him in order to save the white patriarch actually makes sense. Judith Roof says that the move from analog to digital (from metaphor to metonymy) causes an anxiety about the reproduction of the patriarchy. In response the sperm gets a heroic narrative and Arnold Swarzenegger gets pregnant and the mario brothers save the world. How..though does race play out here. Does it matter which black person reproduces the patriarchy? If, as Spillers points out the actual physical reproduction of slaves is not sufficient to reproduce enslavement as a state, and therefore an ideological narrative of black women as legally productive of enslaved status is necessary, then in the genetic age (with the use of Henrietta Lacks's racialized overproductive cells in labs worldwide) how do black women get narrated? How important does it become that DNA evidence proves that black women cannot be raped around the corner of my house...for example....

And Conditions 5 (which I described to Nia this week as "the most important periodical publication ever"...mostly because it created and imagined me within a possible audience) addresses THESE of heterosexism and audience production issues becoming the bridge between the full inhabitation of the space of the periodical Conditions of white mainstream middle class feminism and the creation of different apparatus for the (re?)production of that audience in Kitchen Table Press. So between the "special issue" and the anthology there is a dialogic process going on. There is a rejection of the coherence of the so called whole...the so-called united front presented in anthologies during the black arts movement, a mode of production that depends on the marginalization of certain queeries..shall we call them. But at the same time there is definitely a desire for something that will last, a relationship in the making that can still be monumentalized. Thus This Bridge Called my Back , for example is made up largely of journal entries (you know...old school blogs) and letters to moms, to sisters in struggles, conversations with biological and chosen sisters, but at the same time as the "movement", the literary world and academic institutions all remain relevant and necessary spaces for these "radical women of color", something that transcends this moment of relations and remains as a legacy is in mind. Barbara Smith when she sees the "movement" says it outright "let's start building!" and in her essay on her role in founding what could be called Black Women's Studies she calls black women's studies her "legacy" and is pleased that it will be something that will last. Now this all comes on top (in my temporality as reader/listener) of Wahneema Lubiano's statement that black studies is always unfinished and that is a good thing. Each. Day. Is. The World. Made New. Though unborn at the time I situate myself in the audience that these women were creating with their poetics of the moment. So does that make their acts of publication reproductive? Or just productive? Or is it me, making them relevant everytime and asking you to make them relevant as a I shape my relationship to you now.
Lee Edelman of course is suspicious of this futurity and for him it is so not queer. But isn't it a queer thing (see Audre Lorde's Turning the Beat Around: Lesbian Parenting 1986) for black lesbians to think that they have some stake in creating a future, that they have some long-lasting audibility given that the status quo was a structure for their extermination? When Barbara Christian says that it is THIS (a long this) generation that needs and uses Audre Lorde's words (and Nia and Aishah and Alexis say yes. yes. THIS is US.) isn't that a queer thing? A better thing, than the abandonment of the social that hurts, the concession to the drive FOR our deaths that would tell the story in a way that denies that we are here screaming even now? Is it not a queer thing to make a promise, make love, knowing that each is impossible, not only because of the gap between the sign and the signified, but also because of the ways in which certain racialized "non-reproductive" bodies are made to BE that gap (see Hammonds). Isn't it a queer thing build a bridge?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Your Mama's UnCreolizable: Cultural Debates on the Post-Creole

"Journey to the Center of the Earth: The Caribbean as Master Symbol", Aisha Kahn, 2001
"Atlantic Genealogies", Ian Baucom, 2001
"Creolization and Its Discontents", Stephan Palmie, 2006
"Theorizing World Culture Through the New World: East Indians and Creolization", Viranjini Munasinghe, 2006
reponses to the Munasinghe:
"Theorizing through the New World? Not Really", Ulf Hannerz, 2006
"Feats of Engineering: Theory, Ethnography and other Problems of Model Building in the Social Sciences", Aisha Kahn, 2006
"Mixed Metaphors", John Tomlinson, 2006
"New Savage Slots", Deborah A. Thomas, 2006
"Creolization and Indigeneity", Vicente M. Diaz, 2006
"Circulation, Transpositions and the Travails of Creole", Daniel A. Segal, 2006

Almost all of these readings come from Cultural Anthropologists and though some of my BEST friends:) and most generous mentors are anthropologists and aspiring anthropologists, I have to be honest. I have an unfairgut equation between anthropologists and white people. That is just as I don't trust "white people" as a category based on the effects of the actions attributed to their historical constitution of themselves as a group, I don't trust anthropologists as a group because of what seems like an inescapable (however self-reflective and critical) complicity with colonialism. As with the former case...I choose to trust anthropologists who I know as people and I continue to dehumanize anthropologists who I don't know (lest they classify me first). I know that this is not fair and it may not even be necessary or useful...but I may as well put my biases on the table since they will influence this response either way.

So. Before this session of readings my familiarity with the concept of creolization was based on a reading of Kamau Brathwaite's Roots, in which I was more concerned with his characterizations of windborne Caribbean Africanisms and its influence on the discourse of diaspora, a reading of Edouard Glissant's Caribbbean Discourse and Poetics of Relation in which creolization seemed to be aneverending strategic approach to relation that refused the absoluteness of differencebut also refused its dissolution...something like a reading of conditions (through culture?) that required continued engagement across (something like the diasporic mode of production that I imagine) a reading of Kobena Mercer's Diaspora Culture andthe Dialogic Imagination in which creolization become the mode of production through which critical diaspora thinking presences representation and rejects mere reproduction and a particularly critical reading of Eloge de la Creolite (In Praise of Creoleness) by Bernabe, Confiant, Chamousieu...i.e. the Maryse Conde-hating Creolists from Martinique, which I found to be violent in its patriarchal claim to own the process that these earlier writers had been describing explicitly as a process and NOT a product in a way that made it into a biologized PROPERTY which made the violence of colonialism and the unacknowledged sexual violence thereof somehow acceptable and worthwhile.

Of course all of these anthropologists are interested in these mostly literary theorizations of creolization from the Caribbean. And some of them (Ulf Hannerz) believe that (as usual) whatever is produced in the Caribbean can and should be exported and sold back to its disadvantage. This is also the case with terms like "caste" he makes clear. He is absolutely willing to risk that these appropriations make the theorizations or the descriptions of the local through the globalized will be somewhat "less subtle". This seems to ask for a Edwardian :) question about translation. Do the different local contextsnow described by Creolization (James Clifford's much cited "We are all Caribbeans now") assume a tranlatability that is deferred if not impossible? Does the infinite applicability of the idea of creolization by anthropologists actually kill the relation that creolization is producing/describing? If these concepts are infinitely applicable then what is the "cultural" difference across which we address each other. Where are the preconditions for that which is called creolization? Aisha Kahn points out that in a certain sense "all theories of culture and society are local" in such that they can only be engaged (certainly in the anthropological frame) through investigations of particular relations and logics operating somewhere. And Deborah Thomas (with Jennifer Brody) reminds us that this thing about address across difference as the precondition of creolization also reproduces the purity and essential differentness of whatever these (2?) subjectivities must be. And yes it is usually imagined as multiple...but still through a logic of the 2. In the case of the Anglophone Caribbean, as Kahn and Munasinghe point out, the two are the euro-creole and the afro-creole and the East Indian in the Caribbean is characterized as uncreolizable. Kahn and Munasinghe disagree however whether this blindspot proves the inadequacy of creolization as a mode of inquiry that can be applied universally or whether addressing this blindspot (more study of East Indian people worldwide)will activate creolizations upward mobility by making it a purer theory (she later admits...after the responses...that using the word "pure" here was probably a bad choice...after more pure she seems to mean more abstract).

For Palmie creolization is reproductive at best and symptomatic of the unequal relations that give rise to it and should be thrown out. And indeed books are already in the works (if not out) describing something called a "post-creole moment" (see M. Crichlow forthcoming---Notes on Fleeing the Plantation...)

But what about the body of water through which all of this cultural contact is happening. Does creolization seek to manage cultural difference across cultural difference as such or is the Atlantic and economic interface that the Atlantic has been (at least since the transatlantic slave trade) that which this address of the other occurs across? This is complicated because as some would argue (Baucom included) the Atlantic as an body of water and an interface of capitalist relations exists even in our minds as we relate to each other in any of the places that this ocean bleeds into, but this Atlantic has also been biologized (by Benitez-Rojo among others) into some kind of vaginal space (invaginated relation of impossible maternity for Moten) and even Omeros and Baucom's reference to it Achille finds his father in the Atlantic...his ancestor is the ongoing temporality of the Atlantic which is also the absenting of the subjectivity of the mother that provides access to the literally absent father. I will say more about this after I reread Jamaica Kincaid's Mr. Potter which may revise Omeros along these lines.

In conclusion (!!!) all of this reading about creolization (and its discontents indeed) makes me wonder how exactly I historicize and make specific my interrogation of diaspora. (I think this must happen literally through the moments of address and dedication that I am so attracted to in both my reading and my writing). It makes me wonder whether there is a possibility for diasporic relation evident in my archive that doesn't require the invisbilization of the feminine...the absenting of the sexuality and sexual violence against the mother in order to make "cross cultural" relation between men possible (i mean really this goes back through the incest taboo that doesn't prevent incest to the rape of the sabine women in the western imaginary). This is what I cannot afford,

neither to assimilate nor to reproduce.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Re: Making each Other

"Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe": An American Grammar Book, Hortense Spillers, 1987
"Cultural Identity and Diaspora", Stuart Hall, 1990
"Diaspora Culture and the Dialogic Imagination", Kobena Mercer, 1990
The Black Atlantic: Double Consciousness and Modernity, Paul Gilroy, 1993
"Whiteness as Property", Cheryl Harris, 1993
"Diasporas", James Clifford, 1994
"The Diasporic Mo(ve)ment: Indentureship and Indo-Caribbean Identity, Sean Lokaisingh-Meighoo, 1994
"Out Here and Over There: Queerness and Diaspora in Asian American Studies", David Eng, 1997
"The Uses of Diaspora", Brent Hayes Edwards, 2001
"The Time of Slavery", Saidiya Hartman, 2002
"The Crowded Space of Diaspora: Intercultural Address andthe Tensions of Diasporic Relation", Tina Campt, 2002
The Practice of Diaspora, Brent Hayes Edwards, 2003
"Diaspora Circulation", R. Cheran, 2003
"Call Centers, India and a New Politics of Hybridity", Reka Shome, 2006

What is (not) diaspora today? To be honest, despite my intense attraction to the term, I hesitate to use it in public. I fear we may have reached a moment where it is impossible for me to mean what I say when I say it. ButI hesitate to throw it away because it remains the most generative category for my thought process. This impossible relation "diaspora". It could be that the impossibility of what diaspora is supposed to narrate across has led to its being appropriated, used, imported (you see the ironies) for the purposes of the nation-state, for the purpose of a knowability that it forecloses. This is the problem that Katherine McKittrick points out when she spoke at the Diasporic Hegemonies II (back and more hegemonic than ever) Conference in Toronto last fall about the difficulty of writing an geographic encyclopedia entry for the term diaspora without reproducing the relationship to space and knowability that term would allow us to escape from (maybe). Maybe it is simply that a diasporic relationship is impossible. But if so, it is also irresistible. I want to steal it.
I am supposed to write about this somewhere else, but this week Fred Moten came to school and talked, poeisized, about stealing away. About the importance of fugitivity, the need for a certain homelessness in order to acknowledge the fact that though we "the black subjects" are before that (the processes of our subjectification/abjection) we can never trace this back to an origin. This, in fact is where Saidiya Hartman, in Lose Your Mother ends up in that final chapter "Fugitive Dream", where for her the members of this community built by escapees of the internal slave trade in West Africa are the ones who can sing to and for the diaspora. Moten mentioned those who stole away AS modern art, bringing up this impulse towards freedom in the context of limited representation. My question seems to be then, does a diasporic framework help me to keep imagining (being present to) and distinguishing between the types of relations that will reproduce the violent system of rape that we are living in and those that offer another mode of production, that allow us another way of making that lets us make something else (or that doesn't require us to make anything at all? that lets us predict and notice and embrace what is present?)? I think so.
Hall especially seems to be concerned with this process of production (predictably). He is committed to an idea of diaspora that acknowledges the PRESENCES of what he calls the African, European and the American...and I would argue that these presences do not necessarily need to be continentalized or spatialized at all each time...and which also, in a Derridean way, is always in the play of producing subjectivity and positionality newly. Diaspora he says is a process of making and remaking. It is the "re" that I am concerned with here and in the rest of these reading. I wonder if the "re" functions as an again that assumes a system of production (a machine)or reproduction as we know it that this remaking happens through (which it seems to me will continue to produce the same...therefore the continuing presence of slavery that Hartman convincingly depicts) or if this "re" can actually function in the way that I think Hall means it: to make differently. In a certain way to unmake or to notify about to respond to (like the "re:" in an email subject heading) what is being produced and how, in order to give us the opportunity to re?late to each other in the too?late now.
Gilroy seems to follow in this tradition, but I am suspicious that the "re"functions like perpetual reproduction to a further extent in Gilroy's TheBlack Atlantic because instead of this "making and remaking" Gilroy will talk about identity "always being remade" (passive and automatic) or the "infinite contruction of identity" (timeless and monumental). Brent Edwards asks a parenthetical question as to whether "adaptation", the term that Gilroy uses to describe black atlantic "exchange" (another term that troubles me...I have a parenthetical question as to whether Tina Campt can mean the same thing by Intercultural Address (which makes the scene of address present) and diasporic "exchange" (the term which she uses to talk about Audre Lordes encounterswith Afro-Germans)) but Edwards asks whether adaptation can be the same as "remaking". I think no. I think adaptation has something to do with both appropriation and that process that turned beloved the book into beloved the movie. That is a move between ways of producing that assumes something basic about production nonetheless (maybe that assumption is that there are things that can be exchanged..that the opacity doesn't stand, that the "other" can be escaped, that we can be made the same without suffering this same shit.)
That said I demand (and must provide) a greater attention to this "reproduction" because I think that it gets played out, even by these Marxist influenced cultural studies people, in a same old way..and I think that gender has something to do with that. The Spillers piece is especially helpful with this because sheis very specific about the distinction between the genetic reproduction of people who will be enslaved and the epistemological, narrative, legislative project that it takes to reproduce the state of enslavement (Harris too), to (re)subjectify the human who exceeds and preceeds this narrative into slave status, which requires a narration of mother that is not mother. The "remotest posterity" of the enslaved woman is narrated to share her "condition" (a powerful claim through which to read "Conditions Five: The Black Women's Issue...which in fact I am doing this weekend). Spillers also does this in a way that is present (the remotest posterity) by invoking the power of that narrative "even now".
So if, as Spillers says, and I believe our project (whoever we are now) is to break apart the logic that make this syntax of enslavement possible (normal even as a global neoliberal logic of use) and to create another narrative, how can "diaspora" or even "critical black diaspora studies" help with this? I think that the questions that Lokaising-Meighoo and Shome raise are helpful with this. What does doubled-diaspora mean for the Afro-Caribbean person in Canada or the US? Are call centers some type of internal diaspora? Is prison a diasporic space? I think that the impossibility of diasporic relation calls us to be present and to be creative and to be listening for the way of creating that will allow us to keep attempting to make this impossible ethical responsible relation to each OTHER.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Free Looks Like (for Sarah)

Epistemology of the Closet, Eve Sedgewick, 1990
Beloved Sisters and Loving Friends, Farah Jasmine Griffin (above), 1999
Raising the Dead: Readings of Death and (Black) Subjectivity, Sharon P. Holland, 2000
If You Can’t Be Free, Be A Mystery: In Search of Billie Holiday, Farah Jasmine Griffin, 2001
Degrees of Freedom: Lousiana and Cuba After Slavery, Rebeccas Scott, 2005.
Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender and the New Racism, Patricia Hill Collins, 2005
“Blood and Stories: How Genomics is Rewriting Race, Medicine and Human History”, Priscilla Wald, 2006
“My Father Was and Anonymous Sperm Donor”, Katrina Clark (, 2006

On a snow day I had a meeting with Michealene Crichlow, a member of my exam committee, at her home. At the door I was greeted by a sprite of summer, ringleader of abandon, dj of laughlines named Sarah. Sarah explained that she was a whole hand old, and guessed (correctly) that I must be about three hands (fifteen years) old. Sarah explained to me that she is from Jamaica (“the best place where you don’t have to wear a jacket and people can ride bicycles everwhere”) and also from her mother. She was also excited to tell me that her mother, believe it or not, came from HER mother. This seemed to be an important discovery. She seemed pleased to learn that I was from my mother who was serendipitously also from this jacketless place of bike riding. Like the immigration lines (but not at all) in the Kingston airport she also wondered whether I was a visitor and explained that she was kind of but not really but kindof a visitor, here in this place where there is such a thing as snow day. While my meeting with Michealene was rewarding and enjoyable (and gleefully interrupted by Sarah and her computer game and joke offerings until bedtime), I think that I want to add Sarah as the sixth member of my committee. She seems to be an expert on the things that I am trying to explain, or explore:
*what it means to come from where I come kindof but not really be a visitor in any here
*what it means to come from where I comre from...mothers who come from mothers who come from infinite mothers
*what it looks like (with the assistance of a day off school) to be free
The texts I read this week were also concerned with positionalities and freedoms. Rebecca Scott was interested in the comparative "degrees of freedom" achieved through interracial or white supremacist narratives of public propriety in Cuba or Lousiana. Freedom as she imagined it had not much to do with Sarah virtuosity, sharing or questions. Freedom was the right of men to vote and participate in militaristic activities (accompanied by some exceptional women who sometimes could be almost citizens by participating in these public actions...and either way embodying the threat or farce of what it not said about interacial homosocial proximity.) Empress Farah was interested in the renarration of Billie Holiday's legend in order to make more possible for people who share some of Holiday's positionalities, (surviving sexual abuse, growing up quickly, suffering from drug addiction, expressing creative genuis in a society that can and cannot hear that, being a black woman, being beautiful at all.) With "be a mystery" Griffin and Rita Dove beforehand seem to be suggesting that a certain relationship to access, a strategic unreadability may be called for "if you can't be free". This connects with my question for Madhu Dubey last week as to whether making black women's texts "readable" is a relevant task. Is that what I am doing? Making black women's texts...needable...
It occurs to me, as I avoid rereading the black male caribbeanist exile classics (Minty Alley, In the Castle of My Skin, Growing Up Stupid, Banana Bottom) that though I am interested in the ways that the objects of my inquiry create relationships to a black literary canon, maybe I am not so interested in the specifics of how they do or do not revise or continue the projects of the scholarship set. Maybe it is enough that the objects of my inquiry refuse to be realist(ic), refuse to discuss landscape in a way that seems to be about claiming and owning it. (Jurina picked up the overdue copy of Earl Lovelace's The Dragon Can't Dance on my nightstand and put it back down because the descriptions of landscape were taking forever. What are they wanting her to do, she asked, recreate Trinidad from scratch after we leave this planet? Make a movie of this text from memory?) So while I realize that I may have to go back to these texts to talk about exactly what is so different about the ways that they are relating to (owning/leaving/revealing/loving) the land, I also want to say that Kincaid, Lorde, Brand, Nourbese Philip, Cliff, Jordan etc are also interested in addressing colonialism and capitalism and racism and neoliberalism even directly. Not that they are unaware of the ways in which they are read inside of a tradition of black writing, but that reproducing the coherence of a black literary tradition, a caribbeanist literary tradition through ironic aping or more properly the practice of signification may not be quite what they are interested in, or what I am interested in. That could be what's queer about it. (Though I must say...the ways that they trope off of each other do deserve a lot of attention, and many syllabi). What I mean to say is that maybe if these writers are truly anti-nationalist they are also more outcast than the exiles. They refuse to inhabit the tradition. They as Karla Holloway does, wear it loose (the terms that bind us) while keeping it close (the confrontation that frames them). So...Alissa Braithwate does a great job of comparing the relationship to reading that the exile male Caribbeanists enact to the relationship to reading that the Caribbean Women Writers make in one of the chapters of her dissertation. Belinda Edmonson does a great job comparing this Victorian Gentlemanhood stuff to the different class subjectivity and gendered position of the CWW's who come after. Michelle Stephens explains the ways that the United States figured in the imaginaries of the black internationalists from the Caribbean who were dealing with the global hegemony of the nation as colonial subjects.
So maybe what I have to say backwardsly critiquing and distinguishing between exile and "diaspora" is only a small small part of what there is for me to do. Maybe that is not something that I necessarily need to reproduce. Maybe making free is not so much about making the texts and lives of Brand, Lorde, Kincaid et al readable in relationship to a known tradition (and in the meantime making myself readable to the people trying to hire me) maybe making free is about audience in a different the addressee of a love poem. Like a letter to, song to, poem to somebody that makes the scene of address more visible and the relationship something in the making (not something simply being described or even signified on) a responsibility (as distinguished from a response). Because there is something about writing a poem for somebody...Phillis Wheatley was even almost always doing this...there is something even about writing a conference paper for some somebodies. There is an energy there that is a poetics, another possible means for another possible production. Something not about owning, or knowing but a represencing of the fact that we are making it up now. (Griffin also says something beautiful about loving her students because they continue to believe in her capacity to grow. Teaching in that sense is reproduction not in the sense of indoctrination, but rather in th sense of being remade by the possibility of relating to someone.) Sarah leads an invisible carnival with a breaking breadstick. Sarah (and Seneca too at that age) is constituted by the audience and is constituting the audience (a vistor? a 15-year old? me?). I think the reason that I am interested in the publishing and teaching practices of these writers is because they are trying to create an audience, theirs is exactly a poetics of relation. So now I can change my assignment to myself and go back to reading all of the dedicated pieces and using a 5-year old burst's worth of energy in the pursuit of entertaining a visitor.
Thanks Sarah.